how my anxiety coping obsession gave me the best skin of my life

I once read a meme that said having an anxious brain is like having a pet border collie: you have to give it a job, or you won’t like the one it finds for itself. I share my life with a bonkers border collie mix (love you Olive!) and I have an anxious brain, so it made a lot of sense to me.

In the wake of the election, I found myself suffering from obsessing over the news. I was wearing myself out with outrage, constantly on edge, losing hours and hours to reading news and opinions online. I’m not someone who can just stop reading the news, but I knew I needed a new obsession, one that wouldn’t worry me so much.

At the same time, having recently moved from the humid, mild South to dry, cold Colorado, combating dry skin had become a regular concern. I started researching skin care, and my new obsession was born.

This is my face a few months into my new routine, wearing only mascara and tinted moisturizer, in natural light, with no filters.

This is my face a few months into my new routine, wearing only mascara and tinted moisturizer, in natural light, with no filters.

Before I go further, a disclaimer: I am not a skincare expert or a doctor or an aesthetician. I am only an expert on my own skin and my own experiences. I am 32 years old, have skin that tends toward dry/sensitive, and am most concerned about preventing wrinkles and sun damage as I watch the first lines starting to appear on my face. I know that I will age. I think smile lines are some of the world’s most beautiful and hard-earned features. However, I also want to keep my skin looking the best it can at every age. I also like to use more natural/organic things on and in my body as possible. And: I firmly believe in getting enough sleep (something now possible since my kids are almost 5), drinking lots of water, and eating a plant-heavy diet.

My gateway drug was Pixi Glow Tonic. I’d seen rave reviews, it’s available at Target, and my dull, dry skin was definitely in need of a boost, so I picked up a bottle. Within a couple of weeks, I could tell my skin was looking better– smoother, brighter, and those clogged-looking pores we all seem to have around our noses were much less noticeable. It was enough of a change that my husband started using the Glow Tonic too. I wanted to know why it was working so well, and what else might work too.

It turns out I had discovered the wide world of acid exfoliation. The main active ingredient in the Glow Tonic is a fairly low percentage of glycolic acid. I know, the idea of putting “acid” on your face sounds kind of creepy and harsh, and may even conjure images of red, inflamed skin caused by a chemical peel gone wrong. However, it turns out that “manual exfoliation,” like using abrasive scrubs or electric face brushes are actually a lot harsher on your face than ingredients like glycolic and lactic acid, both of which are Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs. Acid exfoliation works by removing dead skin, promoting cell turnover, encouraging collagen production, and dissolving dirt and sebum trapped in your pores. If you have dull, rough-textured, or sun-damaged skin, AHAs will be your friend.

Once I learned about AHAs and acid exfoliation, I wanted to learn about other active ingredients, and how best to use them for maximum results. Pretty much everyone will tell you that “retinoids” are the gold standard for preventing and reversing signs of aging. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives. They work by encouraging collagen production, preventing collagen breakdown in the first place, and exfoliating. They prevent wrinkles, encourage a smooth texture, and help get rid of dark spots. The downsides of retinoids are that they can make skin more sensitive to the sun, and can be irritating and drying to the skin. For these reasons, it is best to start using them slowly, like once a week, and work up to using it nightly. Also: using it at night helps mitigate the sun sensitivity issue, though applying SPF every day is probably the #1 most important thing you can do to prevent signs of aging, and you should apply a good SPF product every day, even if you are not using retinoids. Using your retinoid at night also makes it most effective, because the Vitamin A itself breaks down in sunlight, and thus loses its potency.

Aside from AHAs and retinoids, the other main ingredient I found effective through my research was Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that evens skintone, protects skin from environmental pollutants, and even helps protect skin from sun exposure. Vitamin C is a great daytime ingredient because it helps protect your skin from the outside world all day long.

Once I knew which ingredients would have the best impact for protecting my skin and helping it look its best, I started slowly adding them into my routine. I researched products, read forums and blogs, and found new products that I believed would work for me. I focused on serums with my preferred active ingredients rather than toners or face washes, because I want these actives to really sit on and sink into my skin to do their best work.

A word of caution: NEVER GO WHOLE HOG INTO A NEW SKIN ROUTINE ALL AT ONCE. That’s a great way to irritate the crap out of your skin and end up with a bumpy, red, inflamed, itchy, flaky mess. I was already using a retinoid night serum, so that was the first thing I replaced with a more powerful serum. After I knew my skin was tolerating that well, I started alternating every other night with an AHA serum. Since both Vitamin A and Glycolic Acid are exfoliating, I don’t use them both on the same night, because that would be too much for my skin. Once that was well-established, I incorporated a Vitamin C serum for the daytime.

Another thing I did while trying to take better care of my dry skin was I ditched the foaming cleansers. Foaming cleansers can strip your skin of its natural moisture– you never actually want your face to feel “squeaky clean.” Instead, I started using a two-step cleansing process at night, washing first with an oil to remove makeup and dirt, and then with a creamy cleanser to actually clean my skin and maintain its natural moisture barrier. In the mornings, I actually started doing more than just splashing my face with water– if you’re using exfoliants at night, you need to wash that sloughed skin off in the morning, or it remains trapped under last night’s moisturizer. So, in the mornings I use a cream-based cleanser to make sure I’m starting fresh before applying my Vitamin C serum and moisturizer.

Now that you’ve read about all my research and the ingredients I decided to focus on (Vitamin C, Vitamin A/retinoids, and AHAs), here is my daily routine. It sounds like a lot, but I find the ritual soothing for my anxious mind.

Morning Routine

  1. Wash with Botanics Organic Softening Cleanser (this says to wipe it off, but I rinse)
  2. Apply 4 drops Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum (I put this on and then go downstairs to get my kids up, make coffee, make breakfast, and pack lunches. This gives it time to really absorb into my skin.)
  3. Apply Botanics All Bright Hydrating Day Cream SPF 15 (This is not my favorite, and I will be trying other SPF day creams in the future)
  4. Apply Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 plus a couple of drops of Botanics Organic Facial Oil

morning skincare routine

Evening Routine

  1. First Cleanse: Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse (This is expensive, but my one bottle, a gift for my sister, has lasted months. You get a LOT for the amount you pay, and it’s a really nice oil cleanser. In the future, I promise to test some other, cheaper oil cleansers and let you know what I think.)
  2. Second Cleanse: Botanics Organic Softening Cleanser (same as mornings)
  3. Apply either 4 drops Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum (my retinoid) or 2 drops Pixi Overnight Glow Serum (an AHA, but I’m not super crazy about this serum and again will be testing other exfoliating serums and letting you know what I think)
  4. After waiting at least 10 minutes for my serums to absorb, I moisturize with either Farmacy Sleep Tight Night Balm (love this, but it’s a bit expensive, so I may try the Botanics Organic Hydrating Super Balm) or Botanics Organic Face Cream
  5. As needed for dryness, I apply more Botanics Organic Facial Oil

evening skincare routine

Note: I am super happy with the Mad Hippie serums. Green company using high-quality, effective, scientifically proven ingredients, and a great value. I’ve been using my bottles since the end of January and have used maybe 1/3. Your Whole Foods or Earth Fare may carry them, but I usually buy online (at the links). Since I’m not loving the Pixi Glow Serum, I may try their exfoliating serum next.

So, there’s my routine. And here’s my makeup-free face, just after washing, in natural light.

erniebufflo with no makeup

Got any questions?

*Note: none of the products here are sponsored and none of the links are affiliate links.

 

Advertisements

the paralytic and the poor girl: confronting disability in church

img_2327

Sunday morning, Claire and I were walking hand in hand up the steps to church. As I went through the door, a woman coming in behind us asked, “Is your daughter left handed?” “That’s a random question,” I thought, but I answered, “No?” “Oh, she leads with her left foot,” the woman said. “OH!” I said, “Yeah, she has spina bifida and her left foot is her strongest foot, so she tends to step first and step up with it.” And then she said it.

“Oh, you poor girl!”

To her credit, the look on her face as the words left her mouth was like she’d like to suck them back in unsaid if possible. I had kept moving toward the table where we make nametags, and she ended up writing her tag next to us. “I didn’t mean to say that like that,” she said. “You’re a beautiful girl.” I smiled at the woman. I don’t think she meant to say something hurtful, and she knew it came out wrong.

Claire and I went in, found seats, and sat down. I started to think about what I was going to say to her after church about what that woman had said.

And then guess what the lectionary text was on Sunday? The one where Jesus heals a paralyzed man after his friends lower him through a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus is speaking.

Little known fact: we parents of disabled kids who go to church are a little bit wary of Bible stories where disabled people are miraculously healed. We spend our time trying to convince ourselves, our kids, and the world that having a disability is just another way of being a person in the world, that people with disabilities are whole and complete, just the way they are, and then we go to church and hear retrograde terms like “crippled” thrown around and stories like that of the paralyzed man used to suggest that maybe people with disabilities are more in need of healing than the rest of us sinners, somehow.

To make matters more awkward, the children’s message was actually a play put on about the Bible story by some older kids. My little blonde piece of sassy perfection was sitting on the front row on the floor watching it. And while I’m sure they did it because slapstick humor is always funny, the play presented the “paralytic” as completely unconscious, constantly being dropped or otherwise accidentally injured by his friends attempting to carry him toward Jesus. It completely removed any agency or really humanity from the man, and made the only actors in the story the friends and Jesus.

Claire loved the singing and the big kids and declared it the “BEST. SHOW. EVER.”

After she went off to children’s church, I paid extra attention to the Bible reading of the story, Mark 2:1-12. And you know what I saw? Everyone but Jesus is focused on the man’s physical body, his disability. Four friends carry the man up to a rooftop, make a hole in it, and lower him down. But when Jesus sees the man, his first words are, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And Jesus stops there. Jesus doesn’t immediately jump to healing that man’s body. He sees him as no different than anyone else: someone in need of grace and salvation, just like we all are, able-bodied or not. In fact, he doesn’t infantilize the man or take away his agency, but he reminds us that the man is a human actor with free will, responsible for his own sins, as in need of forgiveness as anyone else.

It’s only after some of the crowd starts grumbling and questioning, “who is this guy to forgive sins? This is blasphemy!” that Jesus decides he needs a way to show people that he has the power to give us all the wholeness we need. It’s like he goes, ok, fine, since you guys don’t believe I can heal the important, soul-level stuff, let me give you something you can see. And then he tells the man to take up his mat and walk.

Finally, an insight into this story that doesn’t leave me feeling frustrated with a Bible that reinforces a worldview that sees Claire as somehow less than whole in a way that able-bodied people aren’t. Instead, I see a Jesus who sees us all as equally in need of healing and wholeness. A Jesus who gently rebukes the people who might only look at the physical disability and reminds everyone that the place we’re all broken isn’t a place anyone else can see.

That night at the dinner table, I said to Claire, “I want to talk to you about what that woman said in church, how when I said you have spina bifida, she said, ‘poor girl.’ Do you think you’re a poor girl, or that she should feel sorry for you because you have spina bifida?” And Claire said, “I’m not poor! I’m just different!” We talked about how our bodies are not the reason we love and are loved, but that it’s our hearts and minds that make us who we are to people. We talked about how so many of us are different and need help sometimes. And we reminded her that we love her because of who she is, a funny, nurturing, hilarious little being who takes such great care of everyone around her. Thanks be to God.

img_0984-2

make, move, read, do: coping with anxiety

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

Because I’ve seen articles about pastors and counselors and therapists seeing the same in the people they care for, I feel pretty confident in saying that I’m not the only person feeling anxious as all get-out lately. I had anxiety before it seemed our country went to hell in a handbasket, and it feels like every day there’s a new reason to protest, be outraged, be worried. Advice to unplug from the news may be well-meaning, but it doesn’t really suit my personality. I’d feel even more panicked if I didn’t know what was going on. Still, I probably could do better with my time than spend hours a day reading articles online and freaking out.

So. Since I’m freaking out and you’re probably freaking out, we need some coping strategies.

First of all: I take medicine. I make no secret of the fact that I take anxiety medication, and it helps me function. Before I took medicine, my face and neck and back hurt constantly from being perpetually tense, I had trouble sleeping, I ground my teeth when I did sleep, I was constantly one tiny trigger away from a rage or crying outburst, and I was having panic attacks. Most of that I don’t have to deal with anymore since I take medication.

Now my new thing seems to be avoidance. I do not feel like doing anything. Sleeping. Checking my voicemail. Doing much of anything. I just feel overwhelmed. All the time. And my sleep has been out of whack– I’m in a vicious cycle of sleeplessness, exhaustion, and afternoon napping.

My new strategy? Make. Move. Read. Do.

Make means exercising my creativity. This means writing, sewing, cooking, hand-lettering, and painting for me. It turns out finding time to be creative every day really does make you happier. And it doesn’t have to be a great work of art. I remember hearing Mary Steenburgen speak in college. She talked about creativity, and how when we’re kids we’re dancers, singers, painters, artists, but at some point, we let those creative outlets go, often because we decide we aren’t “good” enough to keep at it. But the point isn’t the product, it’s the producing. I find especially that something that allows my hands to be busy and my rational brain to take a break can refresh and relax me. Some creative pursuits I’ve been up to lately: sewing rainbow felt banners for the girls’ upcoming birthday, watercolor painting, hand lettering, and making complicated food like homemade pasta while sipping wine and listening to music.

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

Move means literally moving my body, preferably outside in the sunshine. I am not naturally a “move” kind of person. I have observed that my new city of Denver is an outdoorsy place. When people ask you what you “do,” they often mean “outside for fun” not “professionally.” All of my favorite things happen inside. I’m outdoorsy in that I like drinking on patios. However, as we all earned from Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” They also tend not to feel like they’re flipping out all the time. Now, I’m not suddenly going all outdoorsy, but I’ve taken THREE WALKS OUTSIDE WITH MY DOG lately, and I admit they make me feel better. Usually I listen to a podcast that calms and interests me (Fresh Air, On Being, and the Robcast are my favorites). Also, I read somewhere that having an anxious mind is like having a border collie puppy: you have to give it something to do, or it will find something, and you probably won’t like what it finds. I’ve got anxiety AND a border collie mix, so the walks are good for both of us.

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

Walks with my dog also give me the opportunity to see cool signs like this.

Read means the news, yes, to stay informed, but it also means reading actual books. Right now I’m re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and making a point to read and post a poem a day by a Black poet for Black History Month (check out my Facebook Page to see today’s poem). Note: I do not watch television news. Television news makes me more anxious and panicky. Even listening to NPR news can make me feel like the world is closing in. I follow a lot of writers I trust on Twitter, so I get a lot of the articles I read there, and I’m a New York Times subscriber. I try to stick to sites like The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, etc. and avoid things that overly stress me out. And then I need to also make a point to walk away from news and the internet and just read stuff that feeds my mind and soul.

Do means taking action on behalf of what I believe in. Ideally all that reading will give me one thing per day that is a tangible thing I can do to let my voice be heard and try to resist the Trump administration. This may be calling my Senators and Representative, attending a protest or rally, sending a postcard or email, going to an event where I learn about an issue, or donating money or time to a cause I believe in. I can’t do All The Things, but I can do one thing per day to resist and persist.

Make Move Read Do: coping with anxiety in the Trump era | erniebufflo.com

That’s my coping strategy. Are you doing anything to cope with Trump administration anxiety? What’s working for you?

we will not comply

litany of resistance

In 2008 or so, around the time I started this blog, I went down a rabbit hole that changed my faith forever. I think it was because I was a Relevant magazine subscriber and frequent message board contributor there (if you were on the Relevant boards at any point in the first decade of the 2000s, you may remember someone named funnyface with an Audrey Hepburn avatar). Thanks to Relevant, I heard about Rob Bell. I started listening to his sermons (and, briefly, to some Mark Driscoll sermons because I thought the two Mars Hills were related: BOY THEY WEREN’T), reading his books, and then reading the people he footnoted in his books. Rob Bell, Dallas Willard, Brian Maclaren, and Shane Claiborne radically revolutionized my thinking.

The Way of Jesus became not primarily a creed I promised to believe in but an actual lifestyle. It changed the way I ate, the media I consumed, my politics, everything. Heck, it’s still changing me. Shane in particular challenges areas that I might not actually want challenged all the time, particularly my consumerism. By the way, I told him this when I had the opportunity to meet him last year, as I had helped lead a class at church based on his and Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Revolution, and then he came to speak. He smiled. He really doesn’t care about my angst around wanting All The Things.

Shane literally lives his faith in a way few do. He’s been a radical and a resister of empire since at least the Bush administration. And I’m finding myself drawn back to his work at the beginning of the Trump regime (I refuse to call it an administration, because an administration implies some level of competence and experience and reason that does not exist with this presidency). We’re only a week in, and I’m already finding my emotional and spiritual reserves tapped, my cynicism rising, and my anxiety raging. I need to get grounded in things that will feed and fuel me through months and years of this. I’ve been doing things that busy my hands and occupy my mind, like sewing, cooking, and crafting. I took a long walk with my dog yesterday while listening to a Robcast from Rob Bell, and it felt so good, I’m planning to do it more often. And I’m coming back to the book by Shane that changed my faith in 2008.

Get this. It’s called Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. You should absolutely get a copy. (That was not an affiliate link, btw. In fact, it’s to the used copies of the book, because Amazon is currently out of stock on the paperback.) In particular this week, my heart is drawn back to the Litany of Resistance in the back of the book. Since Shane says he invites readers to use and adapt it, I feel ok reprinting it here. I am thinking of writing out a copy so I can read it every day. I pray it fuels your reserves for resistance as it does for me.

A Litany for Resistance

from Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

One: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.

All: Have mercy on us.

One: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.

All: Free us from the bondage of sin and death.

One: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.

All: Hear our prayer. Grant us Peace.

One: For the victims of war.

All: Have mercy.

One: Women, men, children.

All: Have mercy.

One: The maimed and the crippled.

All: Have mercy.

One: The abandoned and the homeless.

All: Have mercy.

One: The imprisoned and the tortured.

All: Have mercy.

One: The widowed and the orphaned.

All: Have mercy.

One: The bleeding and the dying.

All: Have mercy.

One: The weary and the desperate.

All: Have mercy.

One: The lost and the forsaken.

All: Have mercy.

One: O God, have mercy on us sinners.

All: Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

One: For our scorched and blackened earth.

All: Forgive us.

One: For the scandal of billions wasted in war.

All: Forgive us.

One: For our arms makers and arms dealers.

All: Forgive us.

One: For our Caesars and Herods.

All: Forgive us.

One: For the violence that is rooted in our hearts.

All: Forgive us.

One: For the times we turn others into enemies.

All: Forgive us.

One: Deliver us, O God.

All: Guide our feet into the way of peace.

One: Hear our prayer.

All: Grant us peace.

One: From the arrogance of power.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the myth of redemptive violence.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the tyranny of greed.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the ugliness of racism.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the cancer of hatred.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the seduction of wealth.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the addiction of control.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the idolatry of nationalism.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the paralysis of cynicism.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the violence of apathy.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the ghettos of poverty.

All: Deliver us.

One: From the ghettos of wealth.

All: Deliver us.

One: From a lack of imagination.

All: Deliver us.

One: Deliver us, O God.

All: Guide our feet into the way of peace.

One: We will not conform to the patterns of this world.

All: Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

One: With the help of God’s grace.

All: Let us resist evil wherever we find it.

One: With the waging of war.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the legalization of murder.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the slaughter of innocents.

All: We will not comply.

One: With laws that betray human life.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the destruction of community.

All: We will not comply.

One:  With the pointing finger and malicious talk.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the idea that happiness must be purchased.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the ravaging of the earth.

All: We will not comply.

One: With principalities and powers that oppress.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the destruction of peoples.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the raping of women.

All: We will not comply.

One: With governments that kill.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the theology of empire.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the business of militarism.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the hoarding of riches.

All: We will not comply.

One: With the dissemination of rear.

All: We will not comply.

One: Today we pledge our ultimate allegiance to the kingdom of God.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To a peace that is not like Rome’s.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the gospel of enemy-love.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the kingdom of the poor and broken.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To a king who loves his enemies so much he died for them.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the least of these, with whom Christ dwells.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the transnational church that transcends the artificial borders of nations.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One:  To the refugee of Nazareth.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the homeless rabbi who had no place to lay his head.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the cross rather than the sword.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the banner of love above any flag.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the one who rules with a towel rather than an iron fist.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the one who rides a donkey rather than a war horse.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the revolution that sets both oppressed and oppressors free.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the way that leads to life.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: To the slaughtered Lamb.

All: We pledge allegiance.

One: And together we proclaim his praises, from the margins of the empire to the centers of wealth and power.

All: Long live the slaughtered Lamb.

One: Long live the slaughtered Lamb.

All: Long live the slaughtered Lamb.

 

beware of false peaks: we are not yet to the mountaintop

Finding a new church here in Denver was a process I worried about and prayed over. We loved our church in Little Rock, and I didn’t think we’d find a place I loved so much here. Theologically, we line up most with progressive, mainline churches, but we’re not anchored to one denomination. In the past we have attended Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Methodist churches. We visited two Methodist churches here where we were warmly welcomed, but knew neither felt “right.” We visited a gorgeous Episcopal cathedral, where Etta loudly exclaimed that the communion host “tastes like cotton balls,” and we realized our four year olds are just not ready for high church.

And then we visited Montview Presbyterian. Walking in felt like walking into our beloved Little Rock church. Even the architecture was similar. And the music! That first day, there was brass, timpani, organ, and choir, and the music gave us goosebumps. We noted that the church is led by a man and woman co-pastor team. We were soothed and challenged by the prayers and preaching. We were excited to see the classes, events, and mission opportunities they listed in the bulletin. And to top it off, they were having an ice cream social after church that day, and the girls were totally sold. Plus, when Claire ate too much ice cream too fast in the hot sun outside and barfed, several members helped us deal.

We knew our hunt was over. And then, months later, we learned that in our new church, we actually already had some deep roots. Jon’s dad said, “You know, I think Montview is where my grandfather and grandmother met,” and it turned out to be true.

While we are excited to talk to the church historian and see if we can find any members who were around when Jon’s great grandparents were there, our family history is not the biggest historical event that has happened at Montview.

Today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, yesterday our pastor Ian preached about the civil rights movement and the struggle for social and racial justice which continues today. He started by saying he was always honored and humbled to preach from a place Martin Luther King Jr. once stood. In 1964, MLK visited Denver, and he actually spoke at Montview. In fact, the story goes that he got stuck in a room of the church (I have heard cloakroom, bathroom, and pastor’s study all mentioned) and had to be rescued with a ladder at a window in order to get out and walk around to the front of the church to go in and speak. To the overflow crowd gathered out front, he was just kind enough to come say hello before his talk, but the truth was, that great man had just climbed out a window and down a ladder!

Martin Luther King Jr. at Montview Presbyterian Church.

Martin Luther King Jr. at Montview Presbyterian Church.

It turns out his choice of Montview was significant. Montview is in a neighborhood near ours called Park Hill. In the 60s, as in much of the country, white flight was happening from the city to the suburbs, as many white people opposed the integration of their neighborhood. In Park Hill, there were many residents and many churches who bucked this trend and decided to stay and fight for a unified, integrated neighborhood. Montview was one of those churches.

I am sure that this longstanding legacy of activism and unity is why I can look in my church bulletin and see, just listed this week, that there was a Peace And Justice Forum with leaders from the Denver Justice Project and Together Colorado “to learn more about important issues in Colorado’s criminal justice system, including prison overcrowding, use of force issues, and current reform efforts.” On Tuesday, at least 100 members of our congregation plan to attend a meeting at a nearby AME church to also learn about these issues. In a couple of weeks, people from the Colorado Faith Communities United to end Gun Violence will come help members learn about the legislative process and how to lobby for reforms that will reduce gun violence. And next month, we are invited to a Presbytery-wide conversation about race and the Denver Presbytery.

I also think this legacy is what enabled Ian to stand where MLK once stood, and preach to a largely white congregation about things like privilege, police accountability, and mass incarceration. Like MLK, Ian chose a metaphor very familiar to a Colorado congregation: mountaintops. He reminded us that climbing a mountain is hard work, and that there are many false peaks. A false peak is when you can look and see a ridge up ahead. You are tired, and yet so excited, and yet you get there only to realize you still have a long way to go to reach the top. This is a point where you have to decide if you want to keep pushing on toward the top, or if you will turn back, or stay where you are.

I think for a lot of our nation, we experienced a false peak with the election of Barack Obama. While the election of our first black president was indeed a milestone and a huge piece of history, it was not the mountain top. We are not “there” yet. We are not past racism or “post-racial” as a society, by any stretch of the imagination. The last year has brought a lot of un-dealt-with injustices into the light– things that black Americans have always known were issues are finally being brought to the attention of a white America that has for too long been too insulated by privilege to see– how many young black men have to be shot down in the street by police, how many hateful comments do we have to hear from our own president-elect and his supporters, before we realize that the civil rights movement was not just then but is now, and we have to keep going, keep pressing on toward the mountaintop?

Ian wrapped up his sermon by reminding us of the words of Jesus to some of John the Baptist’s followers: “Come and see.” We are called to come and see the injustices faced by our neighbors. We are called to show up for tough conversations, and to get uncomfortable with our own privilege. Because to come and see is to follow Jesus into the way of love. When we see, then we realize we have to act.

So, this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am planning to do more showing up. To the meetings about racial issues and gun violence, to the marches, and the protests. What are you planning to do?

Of course, after his wonderful sermon, Ian got completely upstaged by the choir. They performed “Up to the Mountain” by Patty Griffin, with actual recordings of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking interspersed with the singing. I was moved to tears, as were many in the congregation. I will leave you with a video of Patty performing the song (click through if you can’t see the embedded video):

super easy, no-candy valentines that will make your slacker butt look like a pinterest parent

I get that Boomers are like, OMG Millennial Parents And Their Special Snowflake Children. They see our birthday parties and class Valentines and think we’re a bunch of overachievers. And while I’ll cop to going a little overboard on birthday parties, my Valentine game only looks like it took me a ton of time. Our school has never let us bring candy or food items, and frankly, with food allergies what they are, I don’t really want to risk it. The good news is, party favors plus free printables that other overachieving parents make available online equals class Valentine’s win. I’ve made it even easier for you by rounding up some awesome options (if you can’t see the images in your RSS reader, click through to see embedded pins):

Every kid loves bubbles. Cute Valentine bubbles available via Target. You can get 16 for $3. Cheaper than a bag of candy.

I used this idea for Claire last year. Play Doh party pack available at Target for $6.

Mustaches are fun! Target even has Valentine mustaches, because of course they do. 16 for $3.

My kids love tiny things. They carry around purses full of them. Zoo animals via Amazon.

Also in the tiny things category: bugs! Bugs via Amazon.

Turns out bouncy balls look like planets. 12 bouncy balls for $3 at Target. Here’s an alternative bouncy ball printable.

I know my girls would love these heart glasses. 16 for $3 at Target.

Glow sticks are always fun. You can get 100 for under $9 on Amazon, with Prime shipping.

If your kid loves dinos, these are perfect. You can get 72 for $8 on Amazon Prime.

And if you hate the other parents in your kid’s class, give the kids kazoos. Almost as bad as giving a kid a whistle. 12 for $5 at Target.

And something for the teachers (I cleared these with my teacher sister):

We’re big Eos lip balm fans in our house. Plus they’re easy to find when blindly reaching into your purse. Or use any lip balm of your choice.

Just add hand soap or sanitizer.

Works with pretty much any Burt’s Bees product.

Just add nail polish.

Did you know you can gift Redbox gift codes via their website?

Always a crowd pleaser. Just make sure the card has enough on it for at least a grande drink.

a superhero girls’ fourth birthday

My kids are 3 months from turning 5, so now seems like a great time to blog about their fourth birthday party. I was kind of a mess last spring and not blogging much, but I don’t want to not document this on my blog. I enjoy planning my girls’ parties, and I know I can only enjoy this kind of thing for a few short years, so I want to make sure I document them so we can remember them in years to come. Last year, the girls were (and still are) super into superhero girls, and DC Superhero Girls hadn’t quite taken off yet, so I used the magic of the internet to help create a girly superhero theme that both girls and boys could enjoy. I love how adorable their superhero birthday party turned out.

Superhero Girls' Fourth Birthday Party Cake Table Setup

Washi tape plus science fair board = city skyline. (Idea here.) I downloaded the adorable clip art superhero girls from Etsy. I got the print-it-yourself invitations from the same seller.

Superhero Girls' Fourth Birthday Party Cape Favors

Every kid got their own cape when they arrived at the party. I got them via Amazon.

img_6558 img_6565 img_6569

Girls Superhero Fourth Birthday Party Activities

Activities included mask decorating, Hulk smashing, shield frisbee throwing, silly string “spidey” target practice, and bubble guns. I made the girls’ superhero dresses by sewing cute fabric onto tee shirts.

Food-wise, we served “hero” sandwiches, fruit and veggie trays with dip, and POP! corn. Claire especially loved the popcorn.

Girls Superhero Fourth Birthday Party POPcorn

Overall, it was a wonderful day, and I’m smiling looking back at these photos with people we love in our old house in Arkansas. Now I’ve got to get busy planning a rainbow-themed party for my almost five year olds!

Girls Superhero Birthday Party Girls Superhero Fourth Birthday Party Girls Superhero Fourth Birthday Party